Routt County activists a case study in engagement

Routt County has seen a surge in local health care activism thanks to a group of about 20 Steamboat Springs’ residents. They call themselves the Yampa Valley Health Care Action Group.

Citizens rise up Jan. 23 in Steamboat Springs

The group has published 34 letters about health care since the January inauguration. Of those, members wrote 26 and eight were inspired by the group’s letters.

“We raise our voices. We fight the good fight. People come out of the woodwork and join weekly,” said Nancy Spillane, the group’s organizer.

The group formed in concern over the outcome of the November election. They share an interest in health care and its future.

They work to keep citizens informed of health issues (local, state, and national), educate readers on how they might be affected by legislative actions, and inform them how to participate in having a voice with what matters to them with regards to health care.

“We write weekly letters to the editor for the local newspaper, the Steamboat TODAY, a free, well-respected newspaper with an online comment option, which is widely used,” Spillane said.

They meet once a week, more often when needed. (The week that the House voted on the AHCA, for example, the group met twice.)

“We give ourselves pats on the back for letters published, review upcoming letters, welcome suggestions for new letters, and decide on ‘action items,’ in which we ask the public to participate via Facebook posts on our local Action Network and Indivisible pages,” Spillane said.

When someone agrees to write a letter on a particular topic (e.g., pre-existing conditions, funding of Planned Parenthood, Medicaid cuts, etc.), often this person is “paired” with another member who assists with research and fact checking. Prior to a letter being submitted to the Editor, a handful of group members also read/edit the draft. It truly is a group effort that seems to strengthen the letter and the message.

The group also secured a four-part series column (May through August) in a monthly publication called The Valley Voice. They answer questions about local health care (e.g., where do I go for help if I am pregnant?) and June column included a health care glossary defining such terms as ACA, the doughnut hole, and single payer. This magazine reaches approximately 7,000 readers monthly.

“We have found a meaningful way to participate in our government. We have found a way to raise our voices and spread the word of concern and action to our friends and neighbors. It’s a beautiful thing when we the people flex our power together,” Spillane said.

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